Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Blood Phones" Powered By Conflict Minerals


I received some…ur…interesting emails about yesterday’s post on conflict diamonds. Some of you really dug your heels into the ground, shouting proclamations that you will NEVER buy diamonds EVER!

Ok, that’s cool and I totally respect where you’re coming from. But before the more (ahem) righteous among us begin condemning all those who like sparkly jewels (including yours truly) I think you should have some more information about other conflict materials.

Conflict diamonds are among one of several natural elements causing war and bloodshed in various regions of Africa. So while, yes some of us can completely forsake the purchasing of diamonds, how many of us are ready to toss our mobile phones too?

Earlier this year, GlobalPost did a great story on conflict minerals with a focus on coltan – which is used to power most smartphones and hand held video games. What was uncovered is that people in the Congo are dying in astounding numbers while the major electronic companies reap the benefits.

And, what’s odd and heartrending is that many of us are unknowingly sowing seeds of destruction in the Congo with our voracious appetite for the latest and hottest smartphones and video games. A recent Pew Internet study provides evidence that people of color (African Americans and Latino Americans specifically) use smartphones at a higher rate than White Americans.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have begun efforts to force disclosure from the twenty-one largest electronics companies and; ask them to cease using conflict minerals in their devices. In fact, President Obama signed a provision in the recent Financial Reform Bill that includes a measure to eliminate the illicit trade of four minerals that are used in consumer electronics.

Are you horrified now? I’m so sure that you are. You were probably unaware of the damaging impact of the conflict mineral driven product that you Facebook, Tweet, and text with each day.

There is something you can do. RAISE Hope for Congo is a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping violence against women and the mineral driven exploitation of the Congo. Sign their e-letter to the twenty-one largest electronics companies demanding that they do not power their equipment on conflict minerals and; ask your friends to do the same.

Also, write to the company that created your smartphone and request their policy on sourcing conflict-free minerals. Research in Motion, Inc. (the creators of the Blackberry) can expect to hear from me today.